Sunday, November 23, 2008

Governor, you're no Mitt Romney

This lovely thank you video reminded me to post my thoughts on the qualified/not qualified debate that has surrounded a couple of recent candidates for high office. For the most part the debate followed a recurring pattern:

Brainless Lefty Partisan: Sarah Palin is not qualified for high office. She's only been governor for a couple of years and was mayor for a few years before that. Therefore she's not qualified.

Brainless Righty Partisan: Oh, yeah? Well, Barack Obama has only been in the Senate for four years. So if she's not qualified, he's not qualified [sticks out tongue]

OK, so maybe some of the debate was slightly more interesting than the above — but not much. Our Brainless Partisans above both seem to think that there's a number of years as governor/senator/congressperson/VP that constitutes a minimum qualification level for high office. Let's get the obvious out of the way — there isn't.

Here are a few folks who, looking back, proved to be effective despite thin political resumes:

George Washington: 0 years. And he may be the best one we ever had.
Andrew Jackson: 9 months Governor of Florida; 9 months Congress; 3 years Senate.
FDR: 3 years Governor of New York.
Eisenhower: 6 months Governor of American Occupation Zone in Germany.
JFK: 6 years in Congress; 7 in the Senate.
Reagan: 8 years Governor of CA

OK, now that we've dispelled this notion that there's some minimum political service requirement to be "qualified", let's move on to the next item at hand:

It does not, therefore, follow logically that anyone will do just fine.

A candidate of limited political experience better prove to me — somehow — that he or she is capable of handling the single most important, demanding, high-pressure job in the world. To that end, this Eastern Despot made a list of evaluation criteria before the first primaries on which to judge the various candidates. There is no simple numerical answer that determines who's the most qualified. It requires some thought. But the onus is on the candidate to somehow prove that he/she is up to this exceptional task.

Mitt Romney's only political experience was four years as governor of MA. But he started and ran a highly successful enterprise, turned around the SLC Olympics and demonstrated a command of the issues and an intellectual vigor.

Barack Obama only served four years in the senate, but showed intellectual capacity by working his way up from a poor family to be President of the Harvard Law Review; he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for 12 years — what presidential candidate has ever had his knowledge of the Constitution?; over the same period he worked as a civil rights lawyer; he ran the most effective campaign in memory and demonstrated knowledge and thoughtfulness about the issues of the day.

Hillary Clinton served only 8 years in the Senate. She taught law, was the first female partner at her law firm, spent 8 years in the Clinton White House. When she spoke on the campaign trail it was a clear that she had a deep understanding of the issues of the day. Even those that didn't like her felt that she had the cojones for the job.

None of the above three had much traditional experience, but they demonstrated that they had the gravitas for the job. Do we like everything about them? Certainly not. But they demonstrated — at least to some extent — that they wouldn't just be puppets in the hands of their advisors and had the intellect to be able to make judgments when presented with conflicting advice.

And Sarah Palin? She had little experience like the three above and started in the same hole. So she better prove that she has the combination of intellect, temperament, and leadership for the job. Did she? How so?

It's not the years in office that make the President. You better prove to me you have integrity, judgment, courage, leadership, vision, and management capabilities to be President. And Governor Palin, in this regard, you're no Mitt Romney . . .


Phutatorius said...

M'dates, have you seen this analysis?

It has its deficiencies: all sorts of experience, from federal executive to state legislative to military service (generals only, please) are equally weighted, and the assignments of relative "greatness" are drawn from surveys, "some by professional historians and some by the public." These are necessarily controversial: you won't find a Republican assenting to FDR's #2 ranking.

But credit for trying.

Mithridates said...

It's kind of neat. But you're right, counting general and state legislature the same is kind of absurd - and Colonel counts for nothing. And why do generals get credit while Romney gets nothing for managing a successful business?

In my analysis, I had Washington as having 0 experience and he was great. Isn't lawyer relevant experience for lawmaker? Is teaching constitutional law relevant experience? If you count everything, though, you're basically just comparing old vs. young.

Certainly at some point there's diminishing returns. I can't imagine that 30 years in the senate is any better than 20 years.

If you weren't a general you don't have military experience; if you weren't a governor you don't have executive experience; if you weren't in national politics (house, senate, vp) you have no experience with the ways of Washington or foreign affairs; if you weren't in business/economics you don't have experience with commerce/finance issues.

So on all of these the onus is on the candidate to prove that they can handle the areas where they have no experience. I think that's all . . .

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